New humanities building to be gateway to Arts Quad

Robert Barker/University Photography
President David Skorton announces plans for a new humanities building at the Trustee Council Annual Meeting Oct. 21. Groundbreaking is planned for 2013 with a projected opening in 2015. Watch video of the announcement on CornellCast.

Koetter, Kim and Associates/Provided
The transparent glass facade allows views into the new atrium space from Baker Lab, Rockefeller Hall, the East Slope Lawn across East Avenue, and by those walking along East Avenue.

Koetter, Kim and Associates/Provided
The atrium is covered by a glass roof and an environmental sunshade, which are both being designed to provide optimal daylight and energy performance throughout the year.

"A magnificent new building for the humanities" will soon provide a gateway to the Arts Quad, President David Skorton announced Oct. 21, and will recognize the vitality and importance of the humanities at Cornell. It will create a space that transforms the experience of the Arts Quad, the emotional heart of the campus, by promoting student connections with the liberal arts and the humanities in particular. It also will help the College of Arts and Sciences meet the growing need for more faculty office and classroom space.

The building will be "the first on our campus for the humanities since Goldwin Smith [Hall] opened in 1905," said Skorton, who made the announcement in front of a packed Statler Auditorium at the Trustee Council Annual Meeting. Groundbreaking is targeted for summer 2013 with a projected opening in 2015.

Located between Goldwin Smith Hall and East Avenue, the new building will provide some 33,250 square feet of new space, including a 330-350 seat auditorium, the largest on the Arts Quad, and many new offices and programmable areas. A 7,700-square-foot, expansive day-lit atrium will offer an iconic indoor space for faculty and students to gather. Its innovative and sustainable design will be a major architectural addition to the Cornell campus.

The building is expected to cost $61 million and "we're doing it completely by philanthropy," Skorton said. At the Oct. 21 meeting, he told an applauding audience that fundraising for the project is "75 percent of the way there" and "we're going to get all the way there by Jan. 1."

"This spectacular building will symbolically and physically welcome the rest of the campus to participate in the humanities and arts at Cornell," said Peter Lepage, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

"We've been fortunate to have received a lead gift of $25 million from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, and it was that tremendous expression of support that allowed us to move forward with the project," said Skorton. "I am extraordinarily grateful for this commitment to Cornell and to the humanities, which comes at a critical point in time."

Among the project's other lead donors is Tom Groos '78 and his family, of Hastings, Mich. Groos, chairman of Minimax-Viking and a partner of City Light Capital, says that contributing to the new humanities building was "an obvious choice." "We're very excited about our donation going to a place where we know it will be well spent on things that will have a positive impact on the future of the country and the world," he said.

Skorton publicly thanked the anonymous donor and Groos and his family at the meeting; he also praised Lepage for his leadership in "bringing us to this milestone."

The primary entrance of the new building will face East Avenue and will be composed of a transparent linear glass wall. The roofline of the new building will not be visible from the Arts Quad. An external promenade will run its entire length along East Avenue, providing extensive tree-lined walking and gathering spaces.

The building is planned to be LEED Platinum certified, with cutting-edge environmental technologies that include an extensive green roof system and variable air volume technology to provide energy-efficient ventilation.

The architectural design firm is Boston-based Koetter, Kim and Associates, whose founders are both Cornell alumni. The firm also designed the recently completed Physical Sciences Building.

Linda B. Glaser is staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.


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